10 Jun2006

Tapas!!!

by Marketman

tap1

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and none of the main courses strikes your fancy? But the appetizers sound really interesting? But because you want to do the “right thing” you go ahead and order a soup or salad to start, a main course and perhaps a dessert? Often what I really want to do is just order two or three appetizers and it’s only in the last 10 years that I have felt confident enough to do that…what tap2will this behavior do? Screw up the service for those at the table who ordered “normally?” Invite the ire of the waitstaff who probably think I am trying to save on my meal (and I am too dumb to order the kiddie portions instead)? Result in inadequate food intake and feel hungry later in the evening? At any rate, I have increasingly ordered this way to get different tastes, try more dishes and eat what I really want. I think this is the reason that I am so drawn to Mediterranean cuisine…Spanish tapas, Italian antipasto, Greek mezzes (?) that translate into small plates with different vegetables, seafood and sausages/hams/meats that burst with flavor and are so much fun to eat…

In Barcelona, the tapas bars were everywhere. But many were targeted primarily at tourists and you had to sift through the places if you wanted to go to a good one. tap3Our strategy was to find more hidden or off the beaten path places that still had crowds. On our last evening, we went to a tapas place about 5 minutes from where we lived and sat down to an early dinner. We didn’t eat out for dinner too much in Barcelona as we had a kitchen but we decided this was the evening to try everything we wanted. We started with an order of SUPERB chorizo from jabugo, thinly sliced and filling a small plate (photo up top.) It was one of the finest I have ever tasted, flavorful, oily but not overly so, just the right amount of salt. We also had several hams and like the rest of the hams we tap5 had on our stay, they were excellent. We also ordered some olives and pickled onions and the small platter that arrived was just far too much for three diners. The amount of salt we would consume if we ate even 1/3 of that plate would be enough to jabugo-ize ourselves.

We had a plate of tomato bread of course and the substantial country tap4bread was dense and flavorful and when toasted retained a nice crust on which the freshly prepared tomatoes were spread. I know this is a staple in Barcelona and with tapas, but frankly, I wasn’t too keen on it if the bread started to get too soggy. My wife and daughter liked it soggy, I liked it crusty. We also got a sampler plate of Spanish cheeses and it arrived with over 6 kinds of cheese that I can’t even remember the names of! We also ordered the potato cake or omelet that is almost always good wherever you order it in Barcelona. I have tried so many times to replicate this in Manila but I always get a mess…I don’t think our potatoes are the right kind to get the soft, not soggy, non oily version that is served in tapas bars.

We also ordered tuna which was served in a spicy tomato sauce (no photo of that and the cheese as my shaky hands and dark surroundings in general made photography tap6nearly impossible…not to mention embarrassment…). We ordered bacalao which came in a creamy concoction that my wife liked but I found just way too salty. Of course we had to get some grilled red peppers as well. Needless to say, we overdid it. With a carafe of red wine, we were utterly stuffed and I thought I was going to die of high salt intake. After heading elsewhere for dessert (the Kid wanted a last helado), we got home, drank tons of water and hoped we wouldn’t expire during the course of the evening. Almost everything was delicious and it was a great “Last Supper in Barcelona.”

tap7

 

COMMENTS:

  1. fried-neurons says:

    I love tapas. Unfortunately, Spanish restaurants are few and far between here in Silicon Valley.

    The last time I went back home (almost 4 years ago now), a friend and I ate quite a few times at Casa Armas. Each tie, between the two of us, we finished a whole boatload of tapas and a pitcher of sangria. Good times.

    Speaking of Casa Armas, I am still dreaming of having cochinillo again…

    Jun 10, 2006 | 6:48 pm

     
  2. MGR says:

    I noticed the high salt content of Spanish foods too. We do a mean torilla de patata. Funny how Spaniards seem to eat forever too. As after the tapas comes the actual meal. The tomato bread (Pa amb Tomaquet) is a staple in Catalan region. It’s so simple as EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), salt and a rubbed half tomato on crusty bread. The breads from Le Couer de France (baguette and batard) are OK.

    Jun 13, 2006 | 2:28 am

     
  3. Katrina says:

    This is EXACTLY the way I love to eat, MM! I’ve never been shy or apologetic about it; if anything, I spend *more* by ordering several appetizers than just one main course. There are some restaurants I go to where none of the main dishes excite me (chefs seem to do much more experimentation with starters), so I get two or three appetizers, then go straight to dessert. I prefer trying different things at a time. Unfortunately, most Filipinos I know aren’t this way; lucky for me my family and boyfriend are, so it’s great to eat out with them and order lots of different appetizers to share! :-P

    Jun 13, 2006 | 2:32 pm

     
  4. Kate says:

    As they say, the customer is always right. That’s why I love dim sum places where they cart around the latest from the kitchen and you get to pick what you like. San Francisco has some great dim sum places, having more Cantonese than any other Chinese group.

    You’re right fried-neurons—for a place that was for hundreds of years a part of the Spanish empire, good Spanish restaurants are hard to find in CA. Maybe an enterprising Pinoy like you should start one! It amazes me how we Pinoys in the US are stuck with turo-turo style eating places when back home, our fine dining scene is incredibly vibrant.

    Jun 13, 2006 | 3:00 pm

     
  5. MGR says:

    There are a few Spanish restaurants in California:
    1. Cafe Sevilla- San Diego and Riverside area.
    2. Los Angeles area: AOC, Cobras and Matadors, La Paella, El Rincon
    3. San Francisco: Bocadillos, tapas places in Mission street and embarcadero (sorry forgot their names)but I know the places.

    Jun 14, 2006 | 6:40 am

     
  6. MGR says:

    I got it! For San Francisco: Chez Nous (Pacific Heights), Esperpento (Mission), Zarzuela (Russian Hill)

    Jun 14, 2006 | 6:47 am

     
  7. gwynhuever says:

    market man…a friend introduced your site to me and i have been coming here to enjoy vicariously the feasts!!

    anyway i was able to visit barcelona a couple years ago and omg…i loved the tapa bars….when my husband and i throw parties now…i sometimes just serve all appetizers…they look very attractive ..easy to prepare and soooo yummy!

    Jun 14, 2006 | 12:02 pm

     
  8. chrissy says:

    This is the way I like to eat! Sana ‘di lang ma-empacho hehehe Other than the usual Greek, Spanish and Italian, there are restos that serve smaller portions so you can sample many dishes YUM!

    Jun 15, 2006 | 3:30 pm

     
 

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